Flathead Catfish
Wikimedia Commons: Engbretson, Eric / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A $20 Walmart Rod Once Landed the Virginia State Record Catfish


Though unconfirmed, Virginia has a new flathead catfish state record.

When a record stands for 24 years, you know it set the bar pretty high. Mike Willems held the Virginia flathead catfish record since 1994 with the 66-pound, 4-ounce monster he caught in Occoquan Reservoir.

That was until Jeffrey Dill landed a 68-pound, 8-ounce flathead in May 2018. But, what makes this story ever more fascinating is how he caught it. Dill told WAVY he wrestled this giant in with a $20 rod from Walmart!

After what was almost a 15-minute battle between man and fish, Dill finally got the fish of a lifetime. He rushed the giant, which he had quickly named Big Earle, to the local bait shop called Oceans East Bait and Tackle where they measured and confirmed the size. Chad Boyce, an official biologist from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, was present to see and confirm the weigh-in.

Jeffrey Dill with his new state record flathead catfish caught out of Lake Smith! It weighed a whopping 68.8 lbs!

Posted by Oceans East Bait and Tackle on Saturday, May 26, 2018

"It was a monster," Dill said in the interview. "It was a true river monster."

Dill caught the fish in Virginia Beach at Lake Smith. Lake Smith is a shallow lake, as it doesn't get much deeper than 5 feet. But, it's one of the local hotspots for many species of fish.

Boyce recalled that Lake Smith was stocked with flatheads in the late 1990s to help keep the perch and sunfish populations in check. He thinks this fish could possibly be one of the originals placed in the lake.

Considering the sheer size of the freshwater monster, his theory makes sense. He claims he can determine the fish's age by examining the ear bone, so he'll do that in the upcoming weeks.

This is certainly a catch Dill will never forget. It just goes to show you don't need the latest-and-greatest gear to land record-breaking fish. A $20 rod from Walmart will do the trick!